Tigger – My Buddy
By Abe F. March
My wife came running into the house struggling to catch her breath. Running up the hill from the village was something she never did. Between gasps for air, she excitedly described a stray kitten she had just seen in the village and was caught-up in the plight of this kitten. I listened but said nothing. I didn’t want another cat. The trauma of the last cat that had died of feline leukemia was still fresh on my mind. Besides, we already had a cat that we brought with us from the States. We called her “DING”, meaning “thing” in German, and that name was given to her when we moved into this German village. I never liked the DING. She had no personality whatsoever.
The next day when my wife returned from the village I heard more details about the poor kitten. I could see the plea in her eyes but I remained non-commital. On the third day, I succumbed and said, “Why don’t you just go and get it?” Without a word, my wife jumped up and was out of the house, running down the hill to the village. She returned holding the most pitiful thing I have ever seen. It was so flea bitten that much of its hair had fallen off. I helped her to dip the kitten in a solution to remove the fleas, and that made this skinny, scraggly-looking kitten, look even more pitiful. I felt I had done my duty in allowing this creature in our house and that was the end of it – so I thought. As soon as the kitten recoverd a bit and got accustomed to his surroundings, he attached himself to me. Everywhere I went that little thing followed me, much to the amusement of my wife. And so began my life and the saga of this little fellow who became known as Tigger, pronounced “Tig – ger,” or simply “The TIG.”
Our small village was completely blanketed with fog. Shades of light began to appear while the good citizens of Nothweiler, Germany were already up having their morning breakfast. Inside Villa Waldeslust the DING became restless and began rubbing MOM with her whiskers and cold nose, wanting to be let out. DAD, that’s me, pretended to be asleep and waited until MOM got up to take DING downstairs. Pretending to be asleep had a reason. The first one to open the door to the downstairs living area was subject to a 'whole lot of lovin' by the TIG. That is when the shuffle would begin. Trying to get into the kitchen with a ball of fur clinging to a foot, doing twirlies around the ankles, purring loudly while attempting to find some exposed skin to bite, wasn’t easy. While this was in progress, DAD would sneak into the foyer for his first trip to the bathroom. He realized the possible hazards of doing so without first closing the bathroom door. Standing to relieve the pressures of a long night could develop into a Tarzan-type yell. Anything that dingled or dangled was subject to attack by TIG. While MOM gave TIG some food, DAD would go into the living room for his morning wakeup stretch. First the left leg on the windowsill, then the right, then loosening the neck. Now it would be time to rotate the body and then dip to touch the toes and WHAM! Out of nowhere would come the TIG, grasping both paws around the wrist causing unusual morning utterances by DAD. Heaven and hell were beseeched as DAD tried to continue his morning stretch. Finally MOM would come to the rescue and extricate the fur ball from DAD's arm, muttering sweet nothings that usually end in -ulcha, -chen, or -lein. DAD was finally able to finish his morning stretch and would go into the kitchen for his Frühstück of coffee, hard roll and jam. Having poured the coffee and sitting down at the table, there would instantly be a lump on his lap. Now the little twerp wanted to assist with the most sacred part of DAD's morning, the intake of needed nourishment. What at one time had been DAD's quiet time, when he would ponder past or present events while contemplating the future, now became the 'Call of the Wild.' Meanwhile, MOM would be uttering, "Awwwh, be nice to him. He's just curious. Awwwh, my little Puppelscha, etc., etc." Then he would give me a pitiful look with his little beady eyes, a few small “me-eek's”, and then the loud purring would start. How could I resist?
Tigger’s first known skill was that of an investigator. Nooks and crannies could not escape the eyes of the sleuth, Tigger. Things that projected upward were a challenge and had to be climbed. Flowers were especially vulnerable. Small plants that had taken months and some even years to reach their current height tumbled within seconds. The large vine-like plant in the corner of the living room became Tigger's Mount Everest. At the top of this once beautiful flower-vine, I had attached a fishline so it could eventually reach greater heights and adorn the wall. I once found the Tigger swinging from this vine, squeaking “me-eek, me-eek”. I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, placed him on the floor and reprimanded him with a small pat on the rump. He looked at me and then attacked, squeaking fearlessly.
This bundle of energy was everywhere. Now you’d see him, now you didn't. Don't turn around too fast; he's behind you at your feet! Look before you sit down for he could beat you to the seat. He decided when it’s time to play – at least that's what he thought it is. He would grab the hand or arm with his four paws, and then strike with his razor sharp teeth. You could lift him off the floor, swing him around, and he would strengthen his grip. If you teased him with your hand, he would roll on his back with his claws at the ready, twisting and turning, always trying to bite this threatening object. If the hand got too close, WHAM! It was instantly wrapped with a churning ball of fur, gripped by four feet with claws extended, and then chomped on with shark-like teeth. I tried to take a nap on the floor. I even covered myself with a blanket. He tried to get at me and began at my feet and worked his way under the blanket, worming his way to my head. As soon as he got there he bit me on the ear.
Regardless of reprimands, he continued to climb the vines, sit in the flowerpots where he occasionally took the liberty of depositing some of his secretion, leaving a mess of potted dirt on the floor. It was easy to see where's he'd been, but it was not easy to determine where he was at any given moment. We gathered chestnuts and left them sitting in a box by the door. TIG may have felt that the chestnuts needed to be separated. Perhaps he felt that by scattering them all over the floor they could breathe better. He may have even seen a future need for some and therefore hid some in corners and under carpets.
As Tigger continued to grow he exhibited characteristics of a penguin, a squirrel, a rat, a kangaroo and even a tic. He rapidly doubled in size. The legs were getting very long and gave some indication that he would become large. The DING didn’t realize that there might be consequences for her treatment of the little fellow who might one day decide to repay her for whacking him. MOM said he was shaped like a racecar with a high back-end. My hands continued to look as though I was in the briar patch so I began wearing leather gloves when I sat to watch TV. Unfortunately, my gloves didn't fully cover the wrists and that's what he went after. He loved to play rough. He wanted flesh – obviously he wasn’t a vegetarian. It was fortunate for me that it was not summer. God knows what I'd look like if I were wearing shorts. When he wanted up, he simply climbed up the leg, up the back, and then perched on the shoulder. Like a tic, he lay in wait for someone to pass by and then he attached himself. When you least expected it, you were attacked - usually from behind - and then his hind feet became actively engaged in kicking.
TIG liked to experiment. He would race across the tile floor, do a 180° turn while still in motion with his feet pawing the floor until the law of gravity helped with traction so he could propel himself forward again. Unfortunately, with the slick floor tiles, coming to a full stop was difficult and he often slammed into walls and doors.
He's tried to help MOM. He liked to be involved peeling potatoes, or apples, or whatever else she would be doing where he can be on her lap. He thought he could rip the peels off with his claws. As a treat for MOM, I bought two pieces of cheesecake and placed it on the kitchen countertop, and then went into the living room to watch the news on TV. When I went back to the kitchen, I spied TIG sitting on the countertop, having already finished one piece of cheesecake and starting on the second piece. I decided to let him finish. I returned to the bakery shop and explained the need for two more slices of cheesecake. They had a good laugh.
After lunch, I would lay down for my nap. Just as I was falling asleep, TIG would decide to take a nap also. He would climb up on me, put his nose in my ear purring loudly. He then would put his nose in my eye with his body pressed against my nose, cutting off my breathing. When I shifted my head so I could breath, he would then curl his body around my neck and go to sleep. Whenever I moved, he bit my ear. I came to fully understand what a 'Cat-nap' or Cat-Nip' was - a short snooze with intermittent bites.
Tigger brought laughter into the house. Without him, the dreary, rainy, foggy days would have been unbearable. He made us laugh and was part of the family. There were some rules, however. Because he was forbidden to get on the kitchen table and the coffee table in the living room, that became a game with him. He would test my patience by attempting to get on the table. If I yelled “NO!” He would back off but would try again repeatedly. Then, when I turned my head, he would run across the corner of the table and then disappear. I suppose it was his way of laughing in my face as having put one over on me. When my daughter Tina, would come for a visit, she would have to search for her shoelaces before she could leave. He would work at her shoes until he took the laces out and then hide them. What a bugger! One day I slid my feet into my slippers only to find the toes stuffed with Chestnuts.
It was Saturday - another rainy, foggy and dreary day. The temperature was holding steady at 39° F. The water from the rainspout continued a steady flow into the swelling sewer. The autumn leaves were dropping from the sheer weight of their soaked skins cluttering walkways and porches causing a slimy-slippery surface. It was generally quiet outside except for the village bell giving its single, 'dong,' at the quarter-hour. Meanwhile, inside Villa Waldeslust, MOM was washing dishes while DAD was reading the Wall Street Journal that had just arrived with the usual two day mailing delay. The box used for collecting discarded newspapers bound for the village collection container, sat next to the kitchen table. The Tigger, having wiggled himself into one corner of the box found himself wedged into a half sitting, half laying position. He was absorbed in watching his tail move back and forth. He appeared fascinated by this long black object, and then suddenly made a grab for it just as it swung the other way. He tried grabbing it again as it swung in the opposite direction. At this apparent lack of success, he became angry and let out a mild "Me-ek." Now he began in earnest to capture this swinging object. With several more try's, he grabbed it with his front paws and bit it - hard. The loud shriek "Me-eek" drew the attention of MOM who wanted to know what DAD had done to the Tigger. Having explained the perplexity of the situation, she too became engaged in observing the Tigger in his frustrating attempt to "catch the tail." He once more succeeded in grasping the tail and made his bite, the loud "Meee-eek" providing reassurance to MOM that DAD had not been the cause of Tigger's outburst. After having discovered the tail, Tigger hopped out of the paper box, and as he walked away, he looked back and noticed that the black thing was following him. He turned quickly, actually too quickly, for as he lunged for the tail it caused him to lose his balance. Now he began spinning on the floor trying to catch the tail. Having at last caught it, the dummy again bit it. He shrieked and took off running into the living room. We didn’t follow him but his occasional outbursts were evidence that the tail was still attached.
I won't talk about the tomatoes that once sat on the windowsill to ripen or the seeds placed there to dry. Nor shall I mention the freshly washed clothes hanging in the dining room to dry due to the inclement weather. Nor would it be wise to explain, or attempt to describe, the result of the glass of red wine that was left sitting on the kitchen table when we went to bed. There are just certain things better left unsaid. But those antics! His monkey-like mannerisms. His coat of fur: black with white at the throat, a spot of white above his mouth giving the appearance of a moustache and four white feet. Those round devilish-eyes. The burst of speed, leaping into the air with his onslaught of attack. Those scarred hands - mine. The useless talking or admonition. I didn’t think it was a problem of language unless he thought I was conversing in Latin or Greek. He doesn't appear to understand English and is having a problem with German. Perhaps it was the dialect. However, I didn't understand his Feline dialect either.
As Tigger grew he followed me everywhere. If I chopped wood, he would sit and watch. Loud noises never bothered him if I was around. When I took a walk in the forest, he came bouncing along. He may have observed how the squirrels went up and down the trees since he did not come down the trees backwards like most cats, but rather head first, however I was surprised when he came home one afternoon with a squirrel in his mouth. He was growling and shaking the daylights out of the squirrel. He wouldn’t let me get near. It was his game, his kill, and he wanted it all for himself.
In the evening while watching TV, whatever I ate as a snack, he wanted some too. If I had chocolate, he wanted a piece. He simply loved chocolate.
I began to call him “Buddy.” He knew when I usually came out of the house and he would wait for me in front by a small tree. As soon as I came out of the front door he would begin his performance. He would start climbing the tree, stop and look to make sure I was watching. He would then jump from limb to limb, or hang upside down. There was always something new that he tried – in squirrel fashion.
At night, Tigger always came home. He followed us upstairs to the bedroom and would jump on top of my tall clothes schrank and peer down, waiting until we were all settled in. The DING always sat next to MOM. TIG would wait patiently until the DING turned her head, and then he would leap onto the bed and smack her. It was his nightly ritual – getting even for all the abuse the DING dished out to him while he was growing up, I suppose. As soon as he had swatted the DING, he would then curl up between my legs and go to sleep.
Then Tigger got sick. He lost his energy and started losing weight. We took him to the vet where he was examined and blood taken for analysis. The vet gave him some sort of vitamin shots and he reacted with renewed energy for a day or so and then it would reverse and he became weaker. When the lab reports came back, we were told that Tigger had feline leukemia and there was nothing to be done. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I loved that cat. He was my buddy. He was part of the family. There must be something that could be done, but what? More shots gave temporary relief but when it wore off, he became weaker. I wanted him inside where I could watch him but he wanted out, so I let him go. That night he didn’t come home. I went looking for him with my flashlight, calling him but couldn’t find him. I had a sleepless night imagining that he was laying dead somewhere. In the morning as I went out to begin a search, I saw him struggling to come up the walkway. He would take a few steps and then fall down. I hurried to him, picked him up and took him inside. We called the vet. The vet recommended that he be put to sleep. I hesitated for a day or so but couldn’t stand to see him suffer, and finally agreed. I asked my wife to take him to the vet since I couldn’t bear to see it happen. My daughter went with her. But before they left, I wanted time alone with Tigger. He lay on the chair and I sat on the floor next to him. I stroked him and he kept one eye open looking at me. He was too weak to raise his head. When I talked to him, he would flip the tip of his tail, seemingly acknowledging that he heard me. I talked to him as a person, telling him how much he meant to me and how I would miss him. His eyes were watering, most likely from the illness, but it seemed to me as though he was crying, knowing that he was going away. We wept together, and then I turned him over to my wife.
My wife returned from the vet with Tigger wrapped in a blanket. I went out alone and dug his grave under his favorite tree. Then I went into my workshop and made a cross for his grave. On it, I painted the words, “Tigger – My Buddy.”
Abe March’s entrepreneurial pursuits took him to Europe and the Middle East. “Tigger – My Buddy,” is a true episode that occurred while living in Germany. He isthe author of, “To Beirut and Back – An American in the Middle East.” “They Plotted Revenge Against America” and “Journey Into The Past”.
 The name of our house (Villa)
 Shortened version of the kitten’s name, Tigger
 German diminutives of endearment